Here’s my ranking of this year’s Best Picture nominations – from my least favorite to favorite.
8. American Sniper
Beyond the fact that I did not like American Sniper from a social and political standpoint, I also thought it was poorly assembled and lacked substantial character development. It basically felt like 134 minutes of Clint Eastwood shoving his personal opinions on contemporary American war culture down my throat, and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. The performances were good, but the lackluster script really didn’t provide the actors with the opportunity to do more than just be good.
I will admit that Boyhood was a spectacular experiment in filmmaking, but in my opinion, it fell short. Read more about my thoughts on Linklater’s film in ‘Boyhood’: In Defense of my Dissenting Opinion.
6. The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything provides an intimate look at the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde Hawking. It’s a very slick film – with crisp visuals and sensational performances. Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking is spectacularly convincing and Felicity Jones’ performance is subtle and honest. Despite enjoying the film’s look and performances, overall I felt the story lacked something major – and the effect of “rewinding” the film at the end cheapened the viewing experience.
5. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as Alan Turing is wildly absorbing, and it helps that he has such a fascinating face! The performances of the ensemble cast were also superb (I especially enjoyed Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, a coder who won’t take any bullshit) and I always enjoy a well-done period piece because there’s so much great stuff to look at, from the cast’s wardrobe to the set design. Overall, I felt that The Imitation Game was a good film but not particularly great.
Tied for 3/4. Selma
Although I’m ecstatic that Selma received a Best Picture nomination, I’m still quite upset that David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay were snubbed. Selma shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a man, not merely a symbol of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. What I particularly enjoyed about the film is that the audience is introduced to a variety of people who worked with Dr. King, including many women who DuVernay made a point of adding to the script. It’s a touching story that is artfully done and I wish it received more nominations.
Tied for 3/4. Whiplash
Whiplash is a sensational feat in storytelling. One of my favorite elements of the film is the editing (I’m hoping it will win the editing Oscar), which is as frantic and obsessive as the film’s main character, played by Miles Teller. The result is a viewing experience that’s a bit stressful, but immensely enjoyable. J.K. Simmons should and will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson is the auteur of all auteurs. Although his work has been nominated before (Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums for Best Original Screenplay and Fantastic Mr. Fox for Best Animated Feature) this is his first time receiving nominations for both Best Director and Best Picture. The Grand Budapest Hotel is magnificently well-done, hilarious, smart, and well casted. What I love most about Wes Anderson’s work (aside from his impeccable art direction) is that all of his films, though wildly entertaining, touch on sadder themes such as loneliness, heart-break, and nostalgia.
1. Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Birdman is my absolute favorite film of the year. I feel as though I’ve been talking about why I love this film too much, so instead of repeating myself, you can check out why I enjoyed Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, here.